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Broadway Chamber Players Debut at St. Patrick's Cathedral

 by Melanie Wong


Out from the dark and into the light: Six of Broadway's premier musicians left the depths of their homes in NYC's theater pits for the Broadway Chamber Players' debut concert, "A Woodwind Celebration," last Thursday night at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The evening was utterly New York: plagued by sauntering pedestrians, towers of scaffolding in every corner due to renovations, a supreme lack of heating on an icy night, and screaming sirens (that were at least kind enough to stay on pitch and in rhythm). Luckily, the music was also what you'd expect to hear in the city—heaping with personality and thoroughly top-notch in unity, balance, and pitch.

The players showcased their naturally flowing musicality from the start, with a light reading of Jacques Ibert's energetic wind quintet Trois pièces brèves before moving on to two arrangements by co-founder and flutist John Romeri: Boccherini's Musica Notturna delle Strode di Madrid and Debussy's Deux Arabesques. Romeri turned out to be the star of the show: his brilliant artistry and expressive imagination came through in his unique uses of tone color; and, as host for the evening, he charmingly delivered crisp informational interludes between each piece.

In particular, the distinctive trio sound and blend between flute, oboe, and viola in the first arabesque was unreal—a tribute to both the excellent writing and the sensitive musicians. As well, the memorable combination of viola and muted horn in the two "drum" movements of the Boccherini quickly and effectively grabbed the audience's attention.


By the time the Walker arrangement of Dvořák's "American" Quintet came around, I found myself wishing Romeri had arranged this piece, too; and, while huddled under our coats and scarves as the temperature in the cathedral dropped ever lower, I'm sure the audience agreed. Compared with Romeri's arrangements, Walker's felt duller in regards to texture and color, and the accompaniments were often too thick for the setting. It was here, however, that the fire engines and sirens extended the last notes of movements and joined in unison rhythmic sections best, allowing a brief comic reprieve for the shivering listeners. Alas, the finale successfully ended the night with excitement and energy.

If you missed the show this time around, don't worry—the Broadway Chamber Players will present a monthly series of mixed chamber repertoire beginning in March at their new home, St. Malachy's–The Actors' Chapel.